Sunday, January 31, 2016

Who Said That?

I am a sucker for a good quote.

Which I use all the time.

But quotes can be tricky.

Take “Done is better than perfect.” When I first heard it, it was attributed to Mark Zuckerberg, but it has also been attributed to Sheryl Sandburg.

Does it matter? Well, sort of.

Here’s another favorite: "If someone’s nice to you but rude to the waiter, they’re not nice." I first heard it when a CEO named William Swanson wrote a book of advice for fellow managers. Turns out, however, that he had plagiarized the whole book. He stole this particular quote from Dave Barry.

And sometimes a quote isn’t real at all.

OK, so I’d like to know that it has actually been said, but maybe who said it doesn’t matter.

Another I saw on Facebook, “If you have more than you need, it's better to build a longer table than a taller fence,” comes from someone’s friend, who is trying to become a life coach.

I came up with my own once: “A little every day gets the job done.” I use it to remind myself to do something, anything, no matter how small, every day on a project.

It works, like when you decide to keep a blog.

Just saying.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I’m Going To Be OK With That

We’ve all heard, and used, that old saying, “Nothing’s perfect.”

So, why do I have such a hard time convincing myself not to run my life as if there is such a thing?

What do we even mean by “perfect”? What, for example, is the definition of a perfect movie or book or house or meal? Aren’t those answers all subjective?

I looked up “perfection” on Wikipedia, where there was an explanation of how people have contemplated perfection through the centuries. To me, it sounds like Plato, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke et al had way too time on their hands. A great deal of thought, for example, went into answering the questions, “What is the perfect number?” and “What is the perfect shape?”

The Wikipedia entry also pointed out that the root of the word “perfect” comes from the Latin “perfectio,” meaning “complete.”

Which reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: “Done is better than perfect.”

In other places, I’ve read the advice not to confuse “excellence” with “perfection.”

Ah, now I feel like I am getting somewhere.

“Perfect” is this weirdly fraught term, describing something that doesn’t exist, that many people, including me, use to drive themselves crazy. Or as sofilee on Urban Dictionary put it, “perfect” is “fiercely overrated and non-existent.”

Deciding that your goal is to be or to create something “perfect” strikes me as the same as labeling yourself or someone else “stupid” or “lazy,” words I hate.  Like “stupid” and “lazy,” it’s just this ill-defined, judgy word; it doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of what you are doing and how to make it better -- or if you even need to.

It’s just a way to beat yourself up.

I’m going to listen to Salvador Dali, who said, “Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it.”

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Morning Routine

I used to think of myself as a morning person.

But my husband reminded me that, when we both had to be at work early, I used to ask him grumpily, “Must you bound out of bed like a damn gazelle?”

I guess it depends on what you mean by “awake.”

If you mean curled up, in pajamas, reading and writing, yes, I can be happily awake early.

If you mean bounding out of bed, turning on the lights, jumping in the shower, no.

In recent years, however, I have had be up at 5 am and out by 5:30, to get my son to swim practice.

The only way I can drag myself out of bed that early is to know that Lola the Dog and I are going to pad down the hall and climb into my son’s bed. After a moment, my son will groan, “OK, guys, we really have to get up.” If he didn’t, Lola and I would happily go back to sleep.

It helps that I'm throwing on clothes I find on the floor.

I move toward coffee. If they are doing a “land” practice at their school, I get to stop at the coffee bar on the corner, where, let’s just say, they know me.

Driving to their old pool, I saw a Starbucks under construction. When it finally opened, I was at the drive-through at 5:45. I was alone. By the second day, however, there was a line and even people sitting out on its patio, in the dark.

Scary, how addictive Starbucks can be.

Now, the swim team is using a different pool – and I can find no lattes on the route.

I’m back to making my own.

Theoretically, I could do a 6:30 yoga class.

Yeah … no.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Don't Have To

I tend to be a mindless rule-follower.

Years ago, my friend and I were waiting on a quiet subway platform when he dropped one of his gloves – a nice, leather glove – onto the tracks. He looked both ways, hopped down, picked up the glove, then neatly pulled himself back onto the platform.

 “Yes, there are rules, but you can still think for yourself,” he explained.

I’d like to say that moment had an immediate impact on me, but it didn’t.

Every year, I water my Christmas tree because you’re supposed to, ignoring that none of my trees have ever sucked up a drop of water.

Turns out, I’ve been doing it wrong.

This professor of forestry, who, incidentally, never watered his own Christmas trees until he did his study and said none of his plant-physiologist buddies did either, advises, A., buy your tree super-fresh, as in cut a few hours ago. (As if I, in Houston, have any hope of that.) B., he says recut the trunk when you get home, the way you cut the stems of flowers before putting them in a vase. (Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?)

Even then, though, within 12 hours, the tree will cover the new cut with resin.

I might try cutting the trunk but, then again, I’ve done it wrong for years and it’s been fine. The hell with it.

I have always washed raw chicken, thinking I was getting rid of bacteria. When my husband told me that’s not right, I didn’t believe him; he had to send me a link. Turns out he’s right: You should NOT wash raw chicken and other meats because you don’t get the bacteria off but you do splash it all over the kitchen.

So, I’m going to change.

I feel so daring.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Voice in My Head

I sometimes record the interviews I do.

It’s never really worked well. Recording and transcribing interviews is, for many reasons, a huge pain in the ass.

But the biggest is that I just hate having to listen to myself.

Everyone says the reason why we don’t like to hear ourselves is that we are not used to how our voices really sound. We are used to hearing ourselves from inside our own heads.

Nah, what makes me squirm as I transcribe are all my pauses, my ummms and aahhs and irritating verbal ticks. I, for example, suck my breath in audibly every time I am about to speak. Every time. Some theorize that pauses and tics serve a purpose, making us sound natural, letting us finesse spoken conversation. I don’t know: Listening to these recordings, I wonder how anyone can stand to be in the same room with me.

And in these interviews, I talk way too much. But that’s not just me. Have you ever noticed people asking questions – whether professional journalists at a news conference or that bozo at the lecture you’re attending – often go on and on, trying to prove how smart they are and how much they know? Meanwhile, the rest of us are like, “Get to the damn question, jerk wad.” But asking a good, succinct question and getting out of the way (till it’s time to follow up) is hard to do.

Still, the one-minute rule, where you try to keep your utterances to a minute or less, is a good rule of thumb, especially in an interview, where, after all, the whole idea is to hear what the other person has to say.

And my minute is now up.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Waffles vs. Pancakes

Image courtesy of
I was recently at a motel’s continental breakfast, where there was a make-your-own waffle station. 

You scooped batter out of a nearby bowl, poured it onto the waffle iron, closed it, flipped it over and waited 3 minutes – which is a long time when a bunch of kids, in flannel pajama pants and winter coats, are lining up behind you.

I had never made a waffle before.

Which got me thinking: Why do people bother with waffles? Aren’t waffles and pancakes basically the same thing? If so, why would anybody bother with a waffle iron? Judging by how I had to peel my waffle off the motel’s, I would guess they are a pain in the ass to clean and, according to Amazon, they cost somewhere in the $40 range and are just another one of those specialty, rarely used gadgets that clutter up your kitchen. 
Image courtesy of
rakratchada torsap

According to Alton Brown, however, waffles and pancakes are not the same. Despite what many people, like me, think, he says, the batter is different. And he points out that waffles are crunchy while pancakes are soft, something I had never known was intentional. When waffles have been crunchy for me in a diner or wherever, I thought it was because someone overcooked them. And I could never understand the appeal of Belgian waffles, which are just this crunchy bricklike thing. Apparently, though, what are called Belgian waffles here in the US are nothing like the waffles made in Belgium, which sound amazing.  And I’ve had plenty of soft, limp waffles, such as Eggo waffles, which are, come to think of it, gross.

Clearly, I have to find good waffles to try.

Who knew?

I'm not the only one to contemplate this issue.
(Link for this video:)

Thursday, January 7, 2016


I had a recent medical scare. You know, the kind where the doctor says it’s probably nothing but it could be something horrible, so let’s run some tests.

I won’t use this for suspense, which would be gross. Three weeks later, I heard. Nothing. Yay.

But it got me thinking.

First, someday, it is going to be something. I desperately don’t want to go down that mental path.

Which leads to number two. You know how doctors sometimes talk about “watchful waiting”? Well, I’m clearly incapable of that. For those three weeks, those MRI results were always on my mind.

This shit’s scary. This study, of women who had false positives on  mammograms, showed the majority had symptoms of anxiety not only while waiting for the follow-up but also up to one year, and other studies have shown up to three years, later –that’s after the all-clear.

And some waited six months for those follow-up results. My husband tells me some of his patients, with no or shitty insurance, have to wait and save for tests. My own doctor said I could wait if “having the MRI would bankrupt” me.

That, my friends, is criminal.

(And no, for most lab and radiology tests, the doctor has no incentive to send you.)

And how about The Phone Call?  The nurse calls to tell you something funky turned up but can’t say more. Gack.

Actually, hearing from the nurse, rather than the doctor, is probably a good sign. I say this as a person who micro-analyzed every word and facial expression of my MRI technician, who also isn’t supposed to say anything.

I know I’m lucky I got this all-clear and to have access to medical care and, someday, I may be lucky that they catch something early.

But, man, it’s scary.